Dear Xebon


I am Xebon.

When the folks at poorbridge.com invited me to preside over their problem page, I was only too happy to accept. My bridge experience is wide and varied, though it has mostly been played at far-flung locations. Cruel misfortune (mainly in my selection of partners) may have prevented me from gaining the recognition I deserve, but I have plenty of advice to offer.

Below are some letters I've received recently in connection with my other bridge job, but unfortunate circumstances have closed that particular line of communication. So please send me your letters, questions, bidding ideas, philosophies and even jokes and I'll answer the most interesting in these pages. All correspondence is read, but I regret that due to my many commitments I may not be able to enter into lengthy discussion with individuals.

May the clubs be with you.

What to lead?

Dear Xebon,

What is the correct lead from KJ9x at Notrumps?

Mark from Sussex

Dear Mark,

It's often correct to lead a major suit at notrump. Opponents will have tended to investigate any major suit holdings they have, so if there's a long major about partner will likely have it.


Urgent Question

Xebon, I have SKQxxx Hxx DAxx CQJx; the bidding, from partner, is 1S—2H—4S—5H—P—P—? What do I bid now plz tell me QUICKLY!!

— snalfadqx9984 on OKBridge

Dear snalfadqx,

I received your letter with interest last Tuesday. I have been considering the matter deeply and think you should not begin by bidding 4S. A stronger bid such as a 2NT 'good raise' or a 3H cuebid will start the auction off in much better shape.


Two Over One?

Hey Xebon, you're such a sweetie, maybe you can help me... My boyfriend wants us to try out two over one game forcing, but I'm really not so sure. To be honest with you, (blush...) I think it sounds kinda kinky. He keeps saying it will improve our scores but I am just 18 and I don't think I'm ready for that sort of stuff before college. What do you think I should do?

Kitty in Milawaukee

Dear Kitty,

Your boyfriend sounds like a real heel. 2/1 can make life difficult in a lot of situations if you're not sure what you're doing. Luckily, when you go to college you can meet a lot of nice, well brought-up boys who will happily stick to Standard American. Then again, by then, you may find you want to experiment.

My recommendations? Dump the boyfriend and do whatever makes you happy.


Tough rebid

Dear Xebon,

I suffered a series of disasters in a recent National tournament, I held the following:

SA K HA 6 4 DA K J 6 5 C5 4 2

I opened 1D and partner responded 1H. I rebid 3D and we ended up in a no-play slam. Then on the next hand, I held:

SQ 6 HA 5 3 DA K Q 9 8 CK 7 5.

Again I opened 1D, but bid 2H over partner's 1H. We played 4H-1 with 3NT cold. What is the correct rebid with this type of hand?

— Brian in Michigan

Dear Brian,

You were dealt the hand type known as the "Bridge World Hand of Death", where your rebid is not clear. It got its name when it became fashionable among american experts to fake a seizure rather than choose a rebid, and hope to get an average score by not playing the board. This practice was frowned upon, and matters came to a head in the 1968 Vanderbilt, when twenty-seven consecutive players in the A-Flight required medical attention and bridge briefly gained the reputation of being a high-risk adventure sport. The practice came rapidly to an end when the chief tournament director announced his intention to give the kiss of life to any subsequently ill player, and since then, we have all had to guess and hope.


A Walrus Writes

Dear Xebon,

I have been having problems convincing my regular partner to play the bidding system that I want to play. I think that this is because so-called 'standard' methods are really poor and not in any way optimal for quality partnerships. It's a pity that so many players have been brainwashed into thinking that systems that involve bidding long suits and emphasising distribution is a reasonable way to play the game. How can I convince my partner that playing my simple point-count system is the way forward, and that in 20 years' time all bridge players will have abandoned the archaic bidding methods that involve telling partner about distribution over general strength. My basic opening methods are:

1C11 pts
1D12 pts
1H13 pts
1S14 pts
1NT15 pts
2C16-17 pts
2D18-19 pts
2H20-21 pts
2S22-23 pts
2NT24+ pts

In response, partner bids step one with 0-5 and step two with 6-7, step three with 8-9 and so on with ranges that are two points wide. Thereafter a simple relay can ask about distribution so that the partnership can then find out about the strain after it knows the level at which it wants to play.

The great thing is that it's 100% robust to intervention from opponents! You can simply use the same stepwise point ranges after the intervention as you would without intervention — except that, as you now know how many points your side has, it is easy to make a penalty double if your opponents have overbid!

How can I sell this (obviously superior) system to my partner? Please help!!

Stag Homequest
Via E-mail

Dear Stag,

Great system! The people in charge of system central here at poorbridge.com will certainly write it up, if you could provide some more details. Your basic problem is that only about 5% of people are what we call innovators: that is, people who are out there trying new things and pushing the envelope out. Most people will have been taught something like SAYC from the start of their bridge playing lives and, unlike yourself, are therefore blind to the defects. To crack this little nut open you have to be persistent and always be ready to point out the faults and errors of partner's bidding and his much-beloved 'standard' methods.

For example, if you land in a 3NT contract with only 24 points between the two hands, then you have to say to partner "see, if we played MY system we wouldn't have landed in that dubious game!" And when the partnership fails to make a penalty double when holding a combined 23 points — even at the 3 level — you have to tell partner "look, if our bidding told us how much strength we had, our opponents would never have gotten away with that!"

The hardest thing for your partner will, no doubt, be the adverse peer pressure that will come from converting to a totally new, futuristic bidding system. To combat this it is vital that you make a note of every time your system gets a good score against an individual opponent, memorise the details and each time a system discussion with that player comes up, remind them of the time that you got a good score against them when:

  • You got a top because you doubled a contract that no-one else could
  • You cunningly stayed out of an unmakeable game because you didn't have enough points
  • You defended sweetly because you know the exact point count of partners hand.
  • They may not like it, but there really is no arguing against results! Best of luck.


    Unlucky Grand?

    Dear Xebon,

    The other day in a local league match my partner opened 1S, right-hand opponent bid 4H and I held: SA K Q x x Hx DA K Q J x CA K

    I bid 4NT, asking for Aces, my partner showed one so I bid 7S. The full hand was this:

    Dealer N
    SJ x x x x
    HA K x x
    CQ J x


    Sx x
    D10 9 8 x x x x
    C10 x x x
    HQ J 10 x x x x x
    Cx x x x
    SA K Q x x
    DA K Q J x
    CA K

    A heart was ruffed, then a diamond and that was two off in the grand slam. Our team mates were defending 4S, so that was a large swing out. Should I have just bid game with my nice hand after the 4H overcall came?

    Keith Bree,
    Leeds, UK

    Dear Keith,

    Though you were a little unlucky, there were certain clues from the bidding that your partner could have picked up on. Look at it from his point of view — his left hand opponent has bid 4H, clearly showing an 8 card suit in view of his lack of high-card points and you, his partner, have bid Blackwood which, as everyone knows, should never be done with a void. Therefore it is a 100% certainty that his RHO will ruff the opening lead and defeat a grand slam. Therefore he should show zero key cards when asked.

    But it doesn't stop there. You should then consider that partner cannot possibly hold zero aces for his opening bid, and must be lying. Why is he lying? Clearly it is because he has heart length and knows that there is a ruff impending. And what exactly is your RHO doing, bidding 4H with almost no high card points? There is only one logical answer to this — he must have a void himself! Once you've turned your mind to this possibility it is easy to just bid 5S and get yourself a flat board.

    The trouble with most players is they don't stop to visualise the opposing distribution and play through the hand before the bidding has ended. The expert player would immediately see here that no slam can ever be made, and stop at the appropriate level.

    Lots of love,



    Enthusiastic, erudite, motorbike owning, cross-dressing, latex loving, dog walking, gerber playing, Bill Clinton impersonating, fox hunting, Poland visiting, apple hating, bible bashing, polaroid collecting, 58 year old saucy Australian bridge player.....seeks similar for green point events in the Home Counties. Contact PO Box 8643.

    Agatha Crink,

    Dear Agatha,

    Good Luck!